You Say Tomato, They Say Tomate

by Daniel Cappello

Rouge Tomate FacadeIn the haute shopping corner of Barneys-meets-Bergdorf, Madison-meets-Fifth, the fashionista may have her pick of fine threads, but what about fine dining? Though tony shopping addresses often invite equally tony restaurateurs (the Costes brothers’ L’Avenue on the avenue Montaigne in Paris comes immediately to mind), is the food ever really the draw?

Thankfully for the well-heeled yet food-conscious shopper in Manhattan there is Rouge Tomate, offering a gastronomical respite where Manolos meet their match in the monkfish. (The roasted monkfish, incidentally, comes served with taste bud–tingling black garlic spaetzle, celeriac, wild mushroom, guanciale, and market pear-cider jus.) The space is open, airy, sleek, and refined—rather nouveau European—with abundant flowers and hints of the natural world everywhere, from the art to the bar.

Founded in Brussels in 2001 and opened in New York City in 2008 by owner Emmanuel Verstraeten, the restaurant holds a steady Michelin star while setting the standard for environmentally conscious, aesthetically inspired, and nutritionally optimal cuisine (executive chef Jeremy Bearman works in tandem with resident culinary nutritionist Kristy Del Coro, R.D., to maximize the beneficial appeal of everything from beets to beyond). To assuage any anguish of over-cocktailing, the bar serves up organic spirits and freshly made juices, which have a way of making even the booziest of diners feel somewhat spa-cleansed.

And, speaking of spas (from the Latin sanitas per aquam, or “health through water”), Rouge Tomate follows the principles of SPE (from the Latin sanitas per escam, or “health through food”), a unique culinary and nutritional program designed to enhance the nutritional quality of meals without compromising taste. Bearman works with several local farms to create a market-driven menu that’s piquant and punchy, but hardly gimmicky and never overdone. In an era defined by farm-freshest, the race can sometimes lead to lousy juxtapositions. Bearman, however, has a knack for knocking them out of the park: the autumn squash soup, for one, is topped with Greenmarket apple, pumpkin seeds, fall spices, and anisette; the Cervena venison is elevated to holy heights with red-cabbage sauerkraut, pumpernickel bread pudding, Hubbard squash, and huckleberry.

This fall, squash lands quite a starring role on the menu, even for dessert, in the much-hyped S’More—executive pastry chef James Distefano’s autumnal take on the summertime treat. In this manifestation, liquid from the roasted squash is used to make a squash marshmallow, which is then enrobed in a black cocoa film and laid on top of graham-cracker crumbs and diced squash. Though many will be calling for s’more, it would be criminal to neglect the chocolate icebox cake, which culls an insurmountable cast of cohort flavors in salted caramel, banana, coffee, and coconut. Now that’s what we call an ending.

Rouge Tomate
10 East 60th Street (between Madison and Fifth avenues), open Monday–Saturday from 12 p.m. until 3 p.m. for lunch, 5:30 p.m. until 10:30 p.m. for dinner; 646.237.8977 or rougetomatenyc.com.